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The events keeping France’s maritime traditions alive

PUBLISHED: 14:33 03 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:19 17 October 2018

Les Sables d'Olonne. Pic: Florian Pepillin/Wikimedia Commons

Les Sables d'Olonne. Pic: Florian Pepillin/Wikimedia Commons


France has a proud history of navigating the globe, embarking on improbable journeys across the oceans and discovering new lands and we’ve selected some of the events that keep France’s maritime traditions alive today.

Explorer Jacques CartierExplorer Jacques Cartier

Breton Jacques Cartier (1491 – 1557) was one of those to undertake a daring voyage across the Atlantic to explore the Canadian coast. There, he discovered Prince Edward Island and the Gulf of St Lawrence, as well as the St Lawrence River, a trip which later led to France laying claim to North America. But grand voyages are not just a thing of the past, with modern navigators embarking upon equally challenging journeys. While the early French navigators were discovering unseen coastlines, today’s sailors explore the very limits of human endurance.

Golden Globe Race

This round the world race sees experienced sailors take on the huge challenge of circumnavigating the globe in old-style boats, without any outside help or modern technology. The event started at Les Sables d’Olonne in western France on July 1 and will finish when the skippers make their way back to the same destination at some time next summer. It is a truly challenging event which has already seen half of those involved having to retire and in some cases rescued. Frenchman Jean-Luc van den Heede is currently leading the way in the Indian Ocean having covered more than 12,000 nautical miles. There is a tracker and daily updates on the website for those who wish to learn more.

Voiles de Saint Tropez. Pic: ReqEngineer/Wikimedia CommonsVoiles de Saint Tropez. Pic: ReqEngineer/Wikimedia Commons

Régates Royales de Cannes

This year’s Royal regatta in Cannes was held in celebratory fashion as the event marked its 40th anniversary. Adding more than a touch of style and glamour to the yachting calendar, the event is one of the regatta season’s most iconic sporting highlights. Crowds gather in a sun-kissed Cannes for a week in September to enjoy the event which attracts more than 150 boats of all shapes and sizes and is seen as a celebration of the sea and its many adventurers.

Les Voiles de Saint Tropez

Grand Pavois. Pic: Remi Jouan/Wikimedia CommonsGrand Pavois. Pic: Remi Jouan/Wikimedia Commons

Another event harking back to a golden era of sailing is Le Voiles de Saint Tropez, held this year between Saturday 29 September and Sunday 7 October. The annual regatta held in the glitzy Cote d’Azur resort celebrates classic racing boats from the past and is known to sailing insiders to showcase some of the most beautiful boats ever made. A lot of the boats involved competed in major events such as the Olympics and Americas Cup many years ago, and although the competition now isn’t as fierce, it’s still a worthwhile endeavour to see these classic vessels in action.

The Tour de France à La Voile

This year saw sailors take on the renowned Tour Voile for the 41st occasion. The annual yachting race sees sailors plot a course around the coast of France from Dunkerque in the north to Nice in the south, taking in the likes of Dieppe, Gruissan and Hyères along the way. It has attracted a host of famous skippers through the years and after 14 days of racing, it was the Lorina Limonade Golfe du Morbihan team that took the honours for 2018.

Grand Pavois

Situated in the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic coast, La Rochelle has a centuries old sailing tradition and holds one of the major events of the international nautical calendar in the Grand Pavois at the city’s Port des Minimes. The show attracts around 800 exhibitors and 100,000 visitors to see more than 750 boats in the water. Although aimed at professionals, the event has plenty to offer the general public too.

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

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